Dyson Heppell has declared himself ready to take over as Essendon captain, saying it would be the realisation of a childhood AFL dream.
But the star onballer added there are plenty of strong candidates.
There is speculation that even if Jobe Watson returns to the club, Heppell might become the new captain.
Watson was skipper until this year, when he and Heppell were among 12 Essendon players suspended for offences relating to the club's supplements debacle.
Heppell was vice-captain last year, while Brendon Goddard was captain this season.
He returned from his ban on Wednesday along with all the banned players except Watson, who must wait another week.
Watson is yet to announce his AFL future and is meeting this week with the club.
Heppell has made no secret of his captaincy ambition.
"I'd love to captain the footy club ... growing up, (I was) barracking for the club," Heppell told AFL360.
"It's a childhood dream, I guess.
"I've developed a lot as a leader over the last few years and really that's under Jobe's guidance.
"There are a lot of fantastic leaders at that footy club and we've seen the emergence of a couple of others this year in Zach Merrett and Joey Daniher."
Heppell said fellow returning players Cale Hooker and David Myers would also be strong captaincy candidates.
"You have a core group of fantastic leaders," he said.
He added Essendon would not make a decision on next season's captain in the near future.
When asked about Watson's future, Heppell said his teammate was keeping the cards close to his chest.
But he admitted that Watson had returned from overseas last week looking like the star onballer was ready for an AFL return.